Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Escalator of Life: Robert Hazard d. 8/5/08

Got word on Wednesday that Philly rocker Robert Hazard had died the previous day after recently being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I hadn't really listened to Hazard much in recent years as his latest music, which was a bit more rootsy and folky, never really grabbed me, but the news of his death brought back a flood of memories.

Living in the Philly area in the early 80s meant being around to hear the music of two great local bands: The Hooters and Robert Hazard and the Heroes. They were around at the same time, though Hazard's career was overshadowed by the success of the Hooters. While he was best known for writing the Cyndi Lauper hit "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," (which he recorded himself four years earlier in 1979), Hazard had a string of local hits from his debut self-titled EP. Perhaps the biggest of the songs from the new wavey disc, was the fun, yet somewhat haunting "Escalator of Life," with its poigniant assessment of our materialistic ways...long before critiquing our excesses was in vogue. Other early songs included "Change Reaction," a rather fast-paced cover of Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," and the Philly anthem "Say Yo." (For the uninitiated, "Yo" was...and is...a commonplace greeting for folks from the streets of Philly, long before it was popularized by the hip hop culture. Remember Rocky? "Yo, Adrian!").

Only got one chance to see Robert Hazard and the Heroes was probably in 1982 at Veterans Stadium. My memory is a bit foggy but it was probably sometime around the 4th of July because the band played after the game followed by fireworks. Any place else it would have been just another local concert...but in that particular time and place...Hazard was a big deal. As Philadelphians we were insiders. We were witnessing something big about to happen. These were our guys whom we wanted to share with the world.

Sadly, when Hazard finally got his big break and signed to RCA, his career and music were severely mishandled by the powers that be...and he never received the national fame he deserved. But he continued to plug away playing east coast venues, with Philly always close to his heart. And while I've gotten rid of a huge portion of my vinyl collection, I still have the plain white EP that was released locally (and probably bought at Third Street Jazz)...but the poster that was shrinkwrapped to it is long gone.

And you can hear Hazard's most recent performance on WXPN's Free at Noon from late 2007.

Robert Hazard, you will be missed, but I'm glad I still have my memories.

Nothing ever changes....

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Thinking about Media, Radio, Culture, etc.

I'd like to introduce you to a fellow blogger who is definitely worth reading. Last week I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Will Hinton for his podcast over at Good Will Hinton.

When I say friend, I guess I should clarify. Will and I have known OF each other for quite a few years. We have quite a few mutual friends, travel in some of the same circles, and spend time thinking and writing about some of the same things. We also have a common love of music.

I think we first became aware of each other while he was working at Paste Magazine and I was writing for them. But up until this last week we had never met, and I don't believe we had ever really even spoken via email or chat. So what prompted this? While on Facebook (where Will and I ARE friends) I noticed Will's status was a request for podcast interview ideas. I noticed Will was online at the time and used Facebook chat to somewhat jokingly suggest myself as an interview subject. And Will surprised me by NOT jokingly responding, "When do you want to do it?" So a few days later we spoke on the phone to record the podcast. I think you'll find it interesting as we discuss a lot of things that I spend time researching and thinking about: the future of radio. Media, technology, and culture. The Internet and social networking. And, of course, music.

It was a pretty good discussion, and HOW we met is a real testament to the power of technology and social media. Lately I've been telling people that I plan on getting all my news, information, and entertainment from the Facebook Status of my friends. Ok, so not really...but there is a nugget of truth in there, and you'll hear a little about the power of the Facebook status as a marketing tool in the podcast as well. Check out the podcast here.

So check out Good Will Hinton and add him to your list of blogs to read. And come back here often as I plan on fleshing out a lot of the things we discussed in future blog posts.

Writer's Block

Sunday morning. Back porch. Cup of coffee. Doesn't get much better than this.

One of the reasons I got back to blogging was out of a desire to do more writing...but alas...I've been struggling with writer's block...combined with a little bit of busyness. And while I have a vacation coming up soon (and will be out of touch with the Internet world), I really do hope to get a little more active on here.

For one, I have a stack of music that I need to talk about. Some great CDs I need to review....some great local bands I need to talk up...and then there is the world of social networking. Recently I've been forced to spend more time thinking about online social networking, viral marketing, and the ways in which these tools can be used in our everyday lives, as well as in the business world. But more on that later...

Things I'm looking forward to in the next few months:
  • A new CD from U2 - I have a feeling it will be amazing. Also anticipating the new Dido CD, hoping she recaptures the energy of No Angel.
  • The Local Music Scene - Lancaster's got it going on with several bands poised to kick it up a notch (to borrow a phrase). I think a lot of good things will be happening in the next year.
  • The Emergence of York - York, PA gets a bad rap, but there is a group of folks over there looking to revitalize the downtown area and energize the culture and entertainment of the area. It might take time, but I think they will be successful.
  • Baseball in September...and hopefully in October. Phils are back in first place but the division is tight. Gonna be an interesting race down the stretch!
  • Football season - I always go into the season with high hopes for the Eagles. 'Nuff said.
  • The Media Implosion - I have to admit, I love watching the big boys squirm. Commercial radio giants. Major labels. Corporate culture. Can't wait to see how this progresses. Viva la Indie!

And just to give you something interesting to check out...

In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatle fanatic named Jerry Levitan, armed with a reel-to-reel tape deck, snuck into John Lennon’s hotel room in Toronto and convinced John to do an interview about peace. 38 years later, Jerry has produced a film about it. Using the original interview recording as the soundtrack, director Josh Raskin has woven a visual narrative which tenderly romances Lennon’s every word in a cascading flood of multipronged animation. Raskin marries the terrifyingly genius pen work of James Braithwaite with masterful digital illustration by Alex Kurina, resulting in a spell-binding vessel for Lennon’s boundless wit, and timeless message.